May 22-25: Café Society Discussion on Labor

For more info, contact: The Public Square at the IHC

Workers of the World…Can They Unite?

As major corporations expand beyond national boundaries and locate branches and headquarters oversees, the United States’ economy has become increasingly globalized.  More and more production and service centers are positioned throughout Asia and Latin America where workers are paid less than a fraction of the wages U.S. citizens earn.

At the beginning of this trend segments of U.S. labor rallied behind a nationalistic campaign to “Buy American.”  However, as the world economy has matured and globalization continued, some have argued that the economic importance of the nation-state has declined.  How should changes in the economy affect the efforts of labor organizing?

Many believe that the very forces fueling globalization undercut the labor force.  They explain the emergence of a “corporate state” in which companies have no allegiance or accountability to a particular nation.  While raising standards abroad and exporting 21st-century business practices like product assembly and computer programming overseas, the United States is also exporting 19th-century labor conditions, wages and rights.  Does a global labor force make global organizing inevitable?

What are the barriers to transnational organization of workers?  How does labor organizing in the U.S. need to adjust to meet the needs of workers in other countries?  What criteria should be used to define labor standards?  What are the most realistic incentives for developing nations to organize if corporations can simply relocate? Will the U.S. worker suffer if union resources are diverted to organizing workers in other countries?  Has the shift to a global economy affected the immigration of undocumented workers to the U.S.?

Join us this week at Café Society to share your thoughts on this important issue.

Suggested Readings:

Organized Labor in Retreat

May Day Alert: Only Global Unions Can Stop the Race to the Bottom

Noble ideal of a global workers’ union may be too little, too late

Why a “Grand Deal” on Labor Could End Trade Talks

Labor Summary

Café Society Locations:

–7:30-8:30 p.m., Intelligentsia Coffee, 3123 N. Broadway St., Chicago

–10-11 a.m., Buzz Cafe, 905 S. Lombard Ave., Oak Park
–12:30-1:30 p.m., Randolph Street Café-Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St., Chicago
–7-8 p.m., Pause, 1107 W. Berwyn Ave., Chicago

–7-8 p.m., Caffe De Luca, 1721 N. Damen Ave., Chicago
–7-8 p.m., Valois, 1518 E. 53rd St., Chicago
–7:30-8:30 p.m., Panera Bread, 1126 E. Walnut St., Carbondale, IL

–5-6 p.m., Ron’s Barber Shop, 6041 W. North Ave., Oak Park

Café Society, a project of the Public Square at the IHC, is a project designed to foster a more robust civil society, more cohesive and interactive communities, greater media literacy, and a more informed and engaged citizenry through weekly coffee shop conversations about contemporary social issues. Current media reports (along with ample doses of caffeine) serve as stimulants for the conversations.


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